Everyone has something to say about what's happened in Oklahoma. The way a tornado flattened an area miles wide with so little warning that some people didn't have time to find a safe place, not that there were any if The way some were safe in a vault at the bank, customers huddling with staff. The way a lovely old lady wept in thanksgiving when her little dog scrambled out of the wreckage of her home.
The way schools was destroyed and children were trapped and crushed and drowned.
In the world of social media everyone has something to say. I suppose I do, too, because I sort out my feelings when I write them down, and after half an hour reading about this disaster on the internet news I'm a bit of a mess of feelings. I haven't got anything to say that is helpful, or wise; I wonder if there's anything that anyone can say that helps.
Nobody told me when I was expecting my first baby that I would one day only have to think of another mother an ocean away one day and find tears running down my face. Nobody told me that a picture of a mother desperately waiting for news would break my heart.
I've always been a bit of a softie, and I know that even before my babies came along I'd have watched this footage with horror and shock, but when I went into a hospital as somebody's daughter and came out somebody's mother, something shifted. Suddenly there was a little life - and nineteen months later another little life - more precious to me than mine.
There were mothers and fathers standing in rubble as the emergency services lifted debris, waiting to know if their child would come home that night. Someone with a megaphone started shouting the names of the kids who were alright, who still had breath in their body to say who they were. Imagine waiting to hear your baby's name, waiting and waiting as people around knelt in relief and scooped up their battered, wounded but living-and-breathing child and your little just didn't come out?
They must have been so frightened, those little boys and girls. They must have cried and shouted for their mummy or their daddy and they didn't come.
The other night my little girl Katy was so tired that she thought of something that upset her and she thought of it so much that she dissolved into tears and she couldn't get herself right again until we'd cuddled and snuggled for a long time. Other people's mummies were to go on a school trip with them next month but I wouldn't be going. Lots of reasons for this, (the main one being that I didn't want to go; I didn't sign up to go) but Katy suddenly, surprisingly, decided that the most important thing in the world was that I would be with her when she went on the school trip. Alas, too late. The class teacher had been inundated with offers of parent helpers (why? I don't understand it) and so it was too late. Katy, for reasons that escape me, inconsolable. She so, so wanted me to be there.
And this is only a school trip. I felt so guilty. Guilt that I wouldn't be with her on a lovely school visit. That I should be there for her. That in not being there I was letting her down.
How much more could a heart take - not to be there when your little one is terrified in the midst of a hugely powerful hurricane? When the winds are blowing at over two hundred miles an hour and the roof is torn off and the walls are collapsing and cars are flying through the air? When they're lying contorted and hurt under the rubble of a collapsed building? Gasping for air before unconsciousness and suffocation?
Nobody told me the all-consuming love that I have for my children. Yes, they get me down sometimes. Yes, I find the job of being their mummy relentless and frustrating and overwhelming sometimes - much of the time. But not to be there when they needed me?
Far away there are mummies and daddies who will somehow have to find out if peace is possible again the other side of something like this. Like the time a man walked into a school and carelessly took the lives of all those small children and their brave teachers. Like the time a huge factory collapsed in Bangladesh and more than a thousand people lost their lives, some of them barely old enough to operate a sewing machine. The time that we saw on our televisions scenes of skeletal mothers and babies in Somalia in the last stages of malnourishment sitting on the parched ground, waiting for death.
Why do we think that those mothers love their children less than we love ours?
I breastfed my babies and I had excess milk that I froze for convenience. I eat so many calories that my hips are well padded for carrying my well-fed children. What must it be like to have a baby knowing that you have no way to feed it, to keep it alive?
What must it be like to send my little one to school with a lunchbox with a cheese and ham sandwich (Elizabeth's favourite) and a bag of raisins and a chocolate biscuit. To put a little 'I love you' note in the lunchbox - or that morning was I too busy to write one? - and then to find out that today was the day she wasn't going to come home?
What must it be like to wait in the twisted remains of a building for news of my whole family and then the building starts to burn?
It's all misplaced, of course, the guilt, but it goes with the territory of motherhood. To protect and nurture and kiss it all better. To be there to make things right when knees are grazed or bullies say the mean things. It's so deeply ingrained in me that to deny me that need to respond is to rob me of something fundamental. I can't imagine the pain that those mothers must be going through.
Where were you, Lord? I think you must have been there; surely you couldn't have stayed away. I pray that you were there with those little ones as the roof was ripped off. There when the teacher shielded their little bodies from the bullets. There when the factory collapsed like a house of cards.
There as every mother cradles her baby and feels the raw power of the new love in her heart.
You must be. It comes from you.
Oh, God, what's it all about? I've read blog posts about comfort and about your tears falling as rain. I've read articles about why there's suffering in this broken, dysfunctional, terminal world. I've seen people railing against your injustice and hard-heartedness and others thanking you for your mercy and never-ending love.
I just can't get the images out of my head. The mothers waiting for news. The sure knowledge that I would a million times rather die with my daughters in my arms than live knowing that they needed me and I wasn't there.
I haven't anything to say. It makes no sense to me.
Well, I have one thing. I don't understand it one bit, but from the very deepest part of me, all I can say is that I know you, Lord Jesus.
I know that you are love. You are compassion. You are the healer. I know that you loved those children of yours in Oklahoma, in Connecticut, in Bangladesh and in Somalia. I know that you loved the five little souls who died in Derby in a house fire set by their own father and the little girl murdered in Wales whose body they have never found...and so on, and so on.
I know that you care.
I know that we are not lost. Somehow, and don't ask me how, as we stand in the middle of grief and horror in this beautiful and terrifying world, we aren't consumed, for you stand with us.
You won't be defeated by evil in any of its forms.
You say that you can bring good out of the most desperate circumstances, but I'm guessing those mothers don't want to hear that right now. There isn't any good, surely.
When they wake up tomorrow morning and the next day and the days after that and for just a fraction of a moment they can't remember what immense, towering grief it is that looms over them - Lord, do what you do. Comfort, soothe, protect, heal.
Loving Lord, do what you do.
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